Throughout the years, Chelsea have had a number of star strikers come through the club only to leave in disappointment with the names of Fernando Torres and Andriy Shevchenko coming to mind. However, one name sticks out among the others for the Blues. One name hit the heights that no other Chelsea striker has hit before. One name is covered in glory and legend at Stamford Bridge — Didier Drogba.
A strong spine to a team is always essential to success, and even more so, to have a striker who can bully centre halves, win games single handedly, and arguably the most admirable trait of all — be that ‘big man for the big occasion.’ Chelsea were fortunate to find someone like this in Didier Drogba — a player they may never come across again. Here we take a look at some of the most pivotal moments in his Chelsea career, and how he inspired the Blues to miraculously win the most prized tournament in Europe to forever secure his legend status at Stamford Bridge.
Picture the scene, 3-1 down after a first leg of a Champions League last 16 tie against Napoli and managerless. The chance of progressing even to the next round? Minimal. The chance of winning the whole tournament? The whole of the Chelsea fan base would have laughed at even the thought of it. Not only did Didier Drogba contribute to the amazing comeback against Napoli at Stamford Bridge, but his influence in the dressing room as a leader and as a man would prove vital in writing his name in not only the Chelsea history books, but in football in general.
After beating Benfica, the European fairytale continued as the Ivorian scored the only goal in a remarkable win over Barcelona at the Bridge. Could the dream really be transforming into a reality? Down to 10 men at the Nou Camp and 2-0 down, surely now the reality of ‘so close yet so far’ was starting to kick in. Another heartbreaking moment to endure for Didier Drogba in Europe. The Ramires chip, however, stunned the Spanish side, who in reaction lay siege to the Chelsea goal. Ironically, in an attempt to support the effort of the defence, Didier conceded a penalty in the left back positional area. All of a sudden, the Ivorian had gone from hero to zero. However, Lionel Messi’s inexplicable inability to score against Chelsea ensured Drogba’s named would not be in the headlines for the wrong reasons. As time ticked on, a dreamy Fernando Torres counter attack secured Chelsea’s trip to Munich. Bayern awaited their arrival.
May 19th, 1-0 down to a Thomas Muller header. With 88 minutes on the clock, a bullet header from the man himself, Didier Drogba, sent Chelsea fans into ecstasy. Throuhgout his career, the big final was always the scene for him to leave his mark on — in any way, shape, or form. It seemed almost inevitable that in extra time, the Ivorian would concede yet another penalty, fouling Ribery, while back defending. Was it always destined to be European disaster for Didier? Saved. The heroic Petr Cech magically kept Arjen Robben’s penalty out. It all came down to the penalty shootout — against the Germans, in their own backyard, and at their own game. Penalties. Chelsea somehow lead the shootout, and if Didier scored the final penalty, the dream would become a stunning reality. The rest is history.
Bursting onto the scene as a bright young talent signed from Marseille, Drogba netted a tally of 16 goals per season in his first two seasons for the Blues, contributing to back to back titles for the first time in the club’s history. His stature and physique struck fear into defenders, and although not the finished article, his raw pace and talent was evident to see. The potential that this man possessed was frightening.
Personally, a moment that struck me, was his stunning goal against Liverpool in the 2006/2007 premier league season. The exquisite chest control on the edge of the box, followed by a sharp swivel to shrug off the defender before firing a volley into the top corner, was truly stunning to watch. Winning the golden boot that season also showed the coming of age for the Ivorian.
As cliche as it sounds, scoring crucial goals in games of ultimate importance will always be what a striker is judged on. The love affair that Didier Drogba had with Wembley was vital for the club. 6 goals in his first 6 appearances at the new Wembley in finals, including the historic first ever goal there, was something special, as he netted the winner against Manchester United in the FA Cup final in 2007. His double against Arsenal at the Millenium in the League Cup final that same season carried Chelsea to more domestic cup success.
To be a strong-willed character in a top side takes a certain type of person. Having the gift of footballing ability is one thing, but to be able to develop this into becoming a leader and someone to rely on? This is a trait that is priceless in sport. For Didier, overcoming the setback of the 2008 Champions League final in which he let the whole club down with his red card, and even before, losing the man who gave him a chance at the club, Jose Mourinho, was an extremely difficult period to have to go through. What shapes one’s footballing career is not only the game changing moments, but also that when times are tough, the ability to fight through it and still perform at then highest level — one of Drogba’s finest talents.
Winning his second golden boot of his career in the 2009-10 season was another personal plus for the former Marseille striker, as well as a third league title and FA Cup in which he inevitably scored the winner in. After his supposed last kick in a Chelsea shirt, his already secured legendary status was further backed up on his return to the club as he contributed to a 4th premier league title and a league cup under Jose Mourinho, the man who first gave him the opportunity a Chelsea. Drogba was born to be a winner.
4 Premier Leagues. 4 Fa Cups. 3 League Cups. 1 Champions League. The once young and inexperienced Ivorian, labelled by many as not good enough at first, has answered not only all of the critics, but all of the fans around the world. Lodged in that famous Chelsea spine of Petr Cech, John Terry, and Frank Lampard, he sits among the best ever, and he thoroughly deserves to. Didier Drogba has truly been a wonderful servant of Chelsea Football Club, and no matter what, we will always remember him for ‘that night in Munich.’